Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Many Americans Worry About Becoming Scam Victims, New Report Finds

With fraud at a crisis level, AARP report explores feelings about the threat and understanding of criminals’ tactics

spinner image collage of different scam icons
Photo Collage: Paul Spella

Incidents of fraud have exploded in recent years, with Americans reporting a record $10 billion stolen in 2023, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). And that’s likely a small fraction of the total, since experts believe that the vast majority of scams and other fraud goes unreported.

Now a new AARP report has found that a stunning 42 percent of American adults have had a personal experience with fraud. “That’s huge,” says Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of fraud prevention programs. “Ten years ago, the presumptions were that maybe about 15 percent of people had experienced fraud.”

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine. Find out how much you could save in a year with a membership. Learn more.

Join Now

The figure is based on a survey of 2,230 U.S. adults, meant to assess their understanding and awareness of various kinds of scams, and all the findings are summarized in the AARP report “The Fraud Crisis in America: How Adult Consumers Feel, What They Know and Their Actions That Pose Risk.” 

The report also found that most Americans (58 percent) are worried about these crimes. Adults 50 and older are more likely to have a high level of concern about fraud, with 63 percent putting their level of worry between 6 and 10 on a scale of 0 to 10. That’s compared with 53 percent of respondents age 18 to 49 who say they are very worried.

Both age groups are about as likely to have had money stolen due to fraud or sensitive information stolen and used fraudulently, but older adults on average lose more money to scams than their younger counterparts.

Black respondents are the most likely to have been fraud victims: 56 percent versus the average 42 percent.

Black adults are also the most likely to express higher levels of worry about becoming fraud victims (36 percent). Hispanic (35 percent) and veteran (32 percent) respondents were more likely than average (29 percent) to express worry about victimization.

Fraud risk awareness: the good news

The results suggested that understanding about fraud is improving in some areas:

  • Most people (91 percent) are aware that fraud can happen to anyone. The majority of Americans seem to understand that criminals’ emotional manipulations can be extremely sophisticated; often part of international crime rings, they hone their techniques by targeting a huge number of potential victims. “For far too long, we have had this tendency to believe that fraud only happens to people who are gullible,” says Stokes. “But this sentiment has been turned on its head.”
  • The vast majority of adults (96 percent) know that being directed to purchase gift cards to handle an urgent financial matter is a scam tactic. That’s an increase from last year, when only about three-quarters of those surveyed said they knew that it’s always a scam when you are asked to make a payment or send money by purchasing a gift card and sharing the number on the back of the card. Gift cards are a hugely popular way for criminals to receive cash — as is crypto. (When someone directs you to use a cryptocurrency ATM to address a financial concern, you’re dealing with a scammer.) 

Scam Tracking Map

No matter where you live, fraud is never far away. Report a scam or search for existing scams near you.



But the report also revealed that most respondents are not doing all they can to lower their risk of fraud.

Room for improvement

Many Americans can do much more to protect themselves from scammers. For instance:

Shopping & Groceries

Coupons for Local Stores

Save on clothing, gifts, beauty and other everyday shopping needs

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >

Avoid unsolicited communications. A significant percentage of adults (28 percent) answer phone calls from people they don’t know at least half the time. Criminals will take any opportunity to separate potential victims from their cash and often do so by manipulating their target’s emotions, which is why responding to unsolicited communications can be risky.

Younger adults are slightly more likely to say they answer calls from people they don’t know or recognize at least half the time (29 percent) than those 50 and older (21 percent).

Use distinctly different passwords for every account. About 65 percent of respondents say they don’t do so. Yet a hack on one account puts the others at risk if the passwords are similar. Older adults are apparently more aware of this: They are more likely to use different passwords for different accounts — 41 percent versus 29 percent for respondents 18 to 49. Password managers can help you keep track of them all.

Be careful about activity on social media. About 54 percent of those surveyed say they take online quizzes or surveys or download free apps on social media. It’s best to avoid them, however, because they can be a way for criminals to gather information for identity theft: Your responses might match your answers to the security questions you use to log in to your online accounts, for example. 

And 15 percent of respondents accept friend requests on social media from people they don’t know — also risky.

Use protective software. About 28 percent of consumers don’t use any protective tools such as antivirus software, antispyware, a firewall, or a call- or pop-up-blocking feature or app.

Protect yourself when using public Wi-Fi. Only 37 percent of adults use a virtual private network when on public Wi-Fi. A VPN protects your personal information and privacy. Stokes says, “If you don’t want to deal with a VPN, then don’t access anything on your phone or computer on public Wi-Fi that’s password protected. Don’t go to your email. Don’t go to your bank. Don’t shop online.” You can read the news or check the sports scores, she adds, but otherwise use cell service, not Wi-Fi.

Report fraud. Most surveyed did not report the crime to local law enforcement (78 percent) or to the FBI or FTC (89 percent). If you spot or have been a victim of a scam, it’s important to report it to your local police, as well as the FTC at The more information authorities have, the better they can identify patterns, link cases and ultimately catch the criminals.

Spread the word about fraud. Only about 46 percent of respondents who were fraud victims warned others (such as family members and friends) about their experience. If someone is aware of a specific scam, they are far less likely to engage with a scammer, so sharing your story can prevent others from becoming victims, says Stokes, adding, “Knowledge is power.”

You can stay up on the latest scams and learn ways to protect yourself from fraud at AARP’s Fraud Resource Center and by listening to the award-winning The Perfect Scam podcast. ​

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?

spinner image cartoon of a woman holding a megaphone

Have you seen this scam?

  • Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360 or report it with the AARP Scam Tracking Map.  
  • Get Watchdog Alerts for tips on avoiding such scams.